Australia’s pathway to net zero will not include immediate emissions limits for new coal or gas projects, the federal minister in charge says.
Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen will this week release a discussion paper about the design of the safeguard mechanism and how it would impact exposed industries.
The safeguard mechanism is a benchmark which requires Australia’s largest greenhouse gas emitters to keep their carbon footprint below a set limit.
But speaking with ABC’s Insiders, Mr Bowen said it would not be designed to stop new coal and gas projects.
“It’s not designed to do that. It is designed that all facilities, whether they be old or new, are reducing their emissions,” the minister said.
Instead, the responsibility will be handed to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, he said.
First legislated by the Coalition in 2014 the safeguard mechanism replaced the Gillard-era emissions trading scheme.
The government has repeatedly said it will not agree to an outright moratorium despite calls from the Greens to ban new coal and gas projects.
But the degree to which the mechanism can be tightened will surely be an avenue for negotiations as the government continues discussions with the Greens to support its climate targets in the Senate.
Mr Bowen has previously said any new projects that emitted more than 100,000 tonnes a year would be covered by the mechanism.
On Sunday, he flagged it would be considered “facility by facility”.
Meanwhile, the government has begun discussions on whether it should be adopting a rare earth minerals reservation to ensure Australia is future-proofed.
It wants to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past by not adopting a nationwide gas reservation system which would have avoided the current price crisis.
Currently, 85 per cent of solar panels in the world are made in China.
Mr Bowen said the government was “getting on” with plans to ensure lithium mined in Australia could be turned into batteries here.